Bears Race Against UCSD To Open Season
It's been over a year since the Cal men's rowing team has competed, a time that the Golden Bears were training at a level unmatched since Scott Frandsen joined the program's coaching staff in 2012.
Frandsen, who has been Cal's head coach since 2018, believes his team is still close to that level as it finally opens the season Saturday against UC San Diego on the Oakland Estuary.
"I think our team culture and just the training mentality of our guys was in a place I don't know that it's been since I've been here," Frandsen said. "Now, it's easy to say that because our season was cut short and we didn't have to go out and prove it. But I think we had a good indication of what we had been building at practice. We had some fast boats."
The Bears will race their varsity eight and second varsity eight against the Tritons' varsity eight in a singular race on the estuary – the first time the program has hosted a competition in Oakland since 1996.
Like all programs in all sports across the country, the Bears have had to navigate the uneven path through the COVID-19 pandemic. But Frandsen said the team's leaders have done an excellent job of keeping communication among the team moving freely and openly while maintaining the team culture that was flourishing last season.
"We are working our way back to that speed, and we are close," Frandsen said. "That's not a given every year. It's not a given the team culture will pick up where it left off. It's been a challenging year, but the influencers and leaders on the team are staying vocal, staying in communication with each other and trying to keep the team culture."
The Bears have a strong nucleus of returners, including George Finlayson, who has been a member of the varsity eight for most of the past two seasons. Coxswain Brett Cataldo, who won a national championship with the second varsity eight in 2019, coxed the varsity eight last season and will do so again this year.
A handful of freshmen are also making an impact immediately, including Daton Wolfaardt of South Africa, and Frederik Breuer and Florian Unold from Germany.
"The guys and the coaching staff are just so excited to race, and we are so grateful for everything it has taken to get here," Frandsen said. "There has definitely been some ups and downs, but I'm definitely grateful to everyone in the athletic department that helped make it possible for guys to train and work toward racing again. The guys have learned a lot from this experience and put themselves in this position to win races."
NOTE: Under Pac-12 Conference guidance and local public health protocols in Alameda and San Joaquin counties, no fans are permitted in the team areas.